If you're looking for the best soundbar to go alongside the best TV, you might have come across a conundrum: to get Dolby Atmos or not.
With Apple TV+ and the other best streaming services adopting Dolby Atmos, deciding whether to go for a soundbar with the feature is a big question – and we'll get into the pros and cons soon.
Of course, there are a lot of other considerations that go into buying a soundbar, too, such as the size of your TV, how much sound you need, and the overall aesthetics of the device.
We're big fans of ditching the built-in TV speakers, which are lacking even in the best 8K TVs, and going for something more professional and befitting a major blockbuster.
The best soundbars, like the Samsung HW-Q950A, are pretty likely to come with Dolby Atmos included, making this guide even more useful.
Before we begin, one important clarification: Dolby Atmos deals specifically with sound, as you might have guessed, and Dolby Vision deals with the image. In terms of soundbars, this isn't a huge deal, but make sure to keep a look out for a TV that also works with Dolby Vision, for the very best experience.
So, let's jump in and look at the pros and cons for Dolby Atmos.
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4 reasons to buy a Dolby Atmos soundbar
1. You want the very best sound
The first, and perhaps most obvious, reason for getting Dolby Atmos with a soundbar is that, well, it sounds a lot better.
Content that is set up to work with Atmos sounds really crisp and sharp, especially if you're using a surround sound setup. Most streaming services support the feature, which first launched in 2012, and its especially great for movies.
One of the ways Dolby Atmos sounds so good is by creating over 100 sound "objects", which goes far beyond the capability of most surround sound systems, to create a 3D sound environment.
You don't need to know the exact details and jargon to appreciate that Atmos sounds really, really good in practice.
2. The best soundbars come with Atmos
The second most important thing is that you might not even have that much choice about whether you get Atmos or not: the best soundbars come with it pre-installed.
Almost all of our top picks, including the aforementioned Samsung HW-Q990B, Sonos Beam 2, and Sony HT-A7000, come with Atmos.
Some of the cheaper options don't, like the Yamaha SR-C20A, but if you're in the market for a mid- to high-end soundbar then the choice has been made for you.
3. You love watching movies
As we mentioned above, Atmos works by creating over 100 sound objects, which lends itself very nicely to movies, the original reason Atmos was created.
Apple has recently been working on Spatial Audio, a kind of Atmos for music, but the main focus of the Dolby technology is movies.
If you're something of a cinephile, Dolby Atmos is going to make movies sound like you've never heard them before – outside of the cinema, at least.
4. You want the best from your streaming services
Finally, all major streaming services, from Disney+ to Netflix to Prime Video, support Atmos for selected content, meaning you'll be hearing the absolute best of the content on offer.
Some older programmes might not show a massive difference but newer material, especially that created by Atmos in mind, will sound beautiful.
Paired with HDR content, you're off the races: everything will both look and sound incredible, despite being streamed over the internet. Magic!
Reasons not to buy a Dolby Atmos soundbar
1. Soundbars with Atmos can often be expensive
We don't want to poop the party but nothing is ever perfect and Dolby Atmos can often come at a cost.
As we mentioned above, our budget soundbar pick – the Yamaha SR-C20A – doesn't come with Atmos support and that is a theme we see playing out across most soundbars under a certain price limit.
Perhaps not a dealbreaker for most people, especially if you don't watch many movies, but something to keep in mind nonetheless.
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